I arrived to check in at one of my favorite New York City hotels, only to be disappointed that the hotel was under extensive renovation. Instead of walking into a beautiful lobby, a sanctuary from the hustle and bustle on the street, I experienced unfinished construction and the smell of sawdust and paint. Their cool and trendy bar that was usually packed with “beautiful people,” was temporarily cut down to about a quarter of its size with very few customers.
As I approached the front desk, the always friendly staff greeted me with a smile. It was hard to be upset with the situation when the staff was so friendly and upbeat. Still, there was internal confusion in my mind. I had planned to invite my group back to the hotel for a drink later that night, and I could tell this wasn’t going to be the experience that I had planned for. Should I try and find another hotel or stay here?
I made my mind up to stay. The people were still the same. The front desk clerk who checked me in even recognized me from a prior visit. The staffs’ smiles and positive attitudes did a lot to make up for the shortcomings of the hotel.
Yet in spite of those great attitudes, this wasn’t a problem that they could smile about, apologize for and then fix right away. Every time I walked back into the hotel I experienced a negative reaction to the extensive renovations. Their sign that said, “We apologize for the inconvenience while we make our hotel a better place,” wasn’t working for me. And I think I know why.
Had the hotel informed me about the renovations ahead of time, I would have had the opportunity to choose to stay there or find another hotel before I arrived. And, my “inconvenience,” as they called it, was not reflected in the price that I was being charged. It was the same price as usual. And, for that same price, I could have stayed at one of the many other hotels in the area that were just as nice. By the way, upon checking out of the hotel, the front-desk staffer did a minor adjustment on my bill. A little sugar to help make the medicine go down. She expressed appreciation for me staying, in spite of the construction, and hoped I would return.
Will I return? Yes, and here is why. As mentioned, the staff was friendly, apologetic and empathetic to the situation. Their attitudes made things better. And, that is very important. Also, we have a relationship. The front desk staff recognized me from my last visit. While they couldn’t fix the problem on the spot, I have a positive past experience and relationship with the hotel, and the staff’s attitude is always positive. That’s enough to earn them another chance. Still, when I make my next reservation, I’ll ask about renovations and construction. And even if I’m told they are finished, until I get there, I won’t know for sure.
As I think about this story, there are several lessons we can learn from it. When the consistent and predictable experience becomes inconsistent and unpredictable, consider the following:
- A good attitude helps smooth over the negative situation.
- You are only as good as the last interaction you had with your customer. Each time the customer walks through your doors, calls you or interacts with you in any way, it’s a new chance to prove they made the right decision to do business with you.
- A history of positive experiences is helpful.
- Any type of relationship, however small, will aid in gaining back the customer’s confidence.